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Aedile

Updated on November 26, 2016

Aedile was the title of an ancient Roman magistrate. According to tradition, the aedileship, which ranked above the quaestorship and below the praetorship in political importance, was created in 494 B.C., when two plebeians were elected aediles. In 367 B.C., two patricians were added to the office. Henceforth, the latter were called curule aediles, since they sat in an official chair (sella curtdis), and the former were known as plebeian aediles, with no distinctive mark of of-ce.

About 45 B.C. the aedileship reached a membership of six (probably one patrician and one plebeian were added). The aedileship disappeared before 235 a.d., by which time imperial officials had assumed aedilician duties. Aediles also acted as minor administrators in Roman municipalities and colonies and in guilds.

Urban aediles exercised jurisdiction in minor offenses. This duty evolved from their care of the city, since they supervised the maintenance of public works (streets, baths, temples, markets, aqueducts, sewers, bridges, theaters, amphitheaters, colonnades, monuments, cemeteries, public buildings), and superintended public celebrations (parades, games, shows, festivals, funerals, thanksgivings). They also regulated traffic, procured and distributed grain, controlled mercantile transactions, inspected weights and measures, stored public archives, and licensed prostitutes. As officers of the markets, they introduced important features into the laws governing sales, and administered punishment, particularly of persons selling slaves and domesticated animals under false pretenses.

Their custom of providing elaborate spectacles as a bid for future popular support of their political careers was an expensive drain on the aediles.

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